The Spokane Chiefs’ annual reunion was in full swing Thursday at the Arena, where new coaches and prospects got to skate with the veterans for the first time in a while, if not ever.
But even for some of the new faces there were old ones, too, like Jim Hammett, who was the best man in head coach Manny Viveiros’ wedding.
“He was the worst man at my wedding,” Viveiros said. “We grew up together, lifelong friends.”
And now, with Hammett on as the Chiefs’ new assistant general manager, they are co-workers for the first time in their careers.
Earlier Thursday morning, Viveiros got out on the ice with the players, running various drills to get the prospects’ jitters out, he said.
“We went through some high-tempo drills today to get the nervousness out of the way, and they looked good,” Viveiros said. “I thought the tempo was really good and the quality was really good. … Now I’m looking forward to watching the guys play.”
The 65 players in attendance are split across three teams and will scrimmage against each other again Friday and Saturday, just as they did Thursday.
They will play the annual Red-White Game at 1 p.m. Sunday. That and all scrimmages are open to the public.
This is Luke Toporowski’s fourth training camp. He said he had given his share of advice to the younger players who are trying to make a good impression on the new coaching staff.
“At 15 years old, you’re coming in here and you’re nervous, seeing the big building for the first time, and it’s kind of overwhelming,” said Toporowski, who ranked fifth on the team last year with 21 goals. “But it’s just an exciting time for these young guys. … I just told them to play their game.”
After Sunday’s scrimmage, coaches will cut down the roster to about 30, sending home the rest of the prospects. After that, seven or eight Chiefs players – including Toporowski – will head off to NHL camps, giving the remaining players a chance to play more in the preseason.
Teams are allowed to keep three 20-year-olds on the roster. In addition to forward Ethan McIndoe, who is present but isn’t skating at camp this week, the Chiefs have four: goalie Reece Klassen, forward Jake McGrew and defensemen Filip Kral and Noah King.
McGrew and Kral will attend NHL camps and could make the rosters for the San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively, or they could be shipped off to those organizations’ AHL teams.
But they could also be sent back to Spokane, which would force general manager Scott Carter to make some difficult decisions.
There’s also the question of whether 19-year-old Ty Smith, the first-round pick of the New Jersey Devils two years ago, will stick with the NHL team or be sent back to the WHL for another season. Smith is not in Spokane this week because he’s attending the NHL’s rookie orientation.
“If they (McGrew and Kral) come back, then that’s a good problem that we have, because then we’ve got a lot of talent to choose from and then we’ll have to make some tough choices,” Carter said, noting also the uncertainty of Smith’s situation. “The tough thing is at some point you’ve got to let a kid go you know’s good enough to play in the (Western Hockey) League and you’re letting him go because of his age.”
It was a busy summer for Carter, who hired Viveiros, Hammett and assistant coach Adam Maglio, who interviewed for the head coaching job. Maglio, 33, was the head coach of the Prince George Spruce Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League the last two seasons.
“Adam’s got some great potential,” Carter said. “Hopefully, down the road he can take that next step with us.”
Two other part-time assistant coaches will be back with the team from last year: Derek Schutz and Adam Deadmarsh, whom Maglio said has been a big help as he gets to know the roster.
“He’s unbelievable,” Maglio said of Deadmarsh, who played 10 seasons in the NHL. “A very smart hockey man, for sure.”
After camp wraps up Sunday, the Chiefs will play six preseason games: three in Everett and three in Kennewick. They open the regular season on the road on Sept. 20 and play their first home game Sept. 28.
Hall of Famer Brett watches scrimmage
Donning a new sweatshirt from the team shop downstairs at the Arena, George Brett leaned over a table next to Bobby Brett, his brother, to do something he hadn’t done in five or six years: He watched the Chiefs play hockey.
“This is unbelievable,” the Hall of Fame baseball player said. “I haven’t been to a lot of junior hockey arenas, but I can’t see it being any better than this. And I’ve seen a lot of minor league baseball fields in my day, and the one in Spokane, it’s charming.”
Brett Sports owns the Chiefs and the Spokane Indians baseball club, which Brett said he will watch play Saturday night.
He has attended a handful of Chiefs hockey games, including their appearances in the 1991 and 2008 Memorial Cup Finals.
As for a pro hockey team, he said he adopted the Vegas Golden Knights after his son began following the recent NHL expansion club. The Bretts attended a Stanley Cup Finals game two years ago in Washington, D.C., when the Golden Knights played the Capitals.
George Brett is the vice president of baseball operations for the Kansas City Royals, the organization for which he played his entire 21 major league seasons.
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